Kathmandu, July 7
Although the government has vowed to resume testing imported vegetables for pesticides after six months, Agriculture Minister Chakra Pani Khanal has said that the time-frame is not enough to build the infrastructure required to test pesticide residue.
The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies had revoked its decision to test pesticide residue in vegetables imported from India after the Cabinet meeting on Thursday citing lack of technical preparation and pressure from traders. However, it later stated that testing would resume after six months.
Addressing the National Assembly today, Minister Khanal said building infrastructure and installing equipment for pesticide testing lab would take more than six months. “It will take at least 10 months to complete all the processes of building infrastructure because after allocating the budget for it, we will have to call a tender and select a contractor before further process can be initiated.”
Currently, there are seven pesticide processing centres in six provinces. Among them, the central pesticide testing centre located in Kalimati market can test pesticide residue of 29 types of chemical groups while the other six can test only two groups of pesticides — phosphate and carbonate groups.
“Our pesticide testing labs are not fully equipped and we have to upgrade them,” Minister Khanal added.
After conducting pesticide tests for almost two weeks, the six pesticide testing labs halted operation following the government’s decision on Thursday. Responding to questions of lawmakers at the assembly regarding the revoked decision on pesticide testing, Khanal said, “Although the working area of agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Industry Commerce and Supplies looks similar, we address different issues.”
He claimed that the agriculture ministry had nothing to do with revoking the decision to stop testing vegetables imported from India for pesticides. Stakeholders are yet to discuss how this issue can be sorted out, as the government is obliged to supply pesticide-free vegetables in the market.
In order to build fully-equipped pesticide testing lab, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has sought Rs 4 billion from the Ministry of Finance. “Our proposal has been submitted to the finance ministry. We will begin the work soon after the budget is allocated,” he said.
A version of this article appears in print on July 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.